In a clear reference to Hillary Clinton, Obama says, " you can't at once argue that you're the master of a broken system in Washington and offer yourself as the person to change it. You can't fall in line behind the conventional thinking on issues as profound as war and offer yourself as the leader who is best prepared to chart a new and better course for America."
And, in a slap at Edwards, he continues, "there are others in this race who say that this kind of change sounds good, but that I'm not angry or confrontational enough to get it done. Well, let me tell you something, Iowa. I don't need any lectures on how to bring about change, because I haven't just talked about it on the campaign trail. I've fought for change all my life."
The speech is laden with his argument for change and Obama asserts that, while a few bad-guy lobbyists and "Republican operatives" in Washington might not go for it, the rest of the country – Republicans and Independents included – are eager to join the cause. But it's Obama's symbolism which is most interesting about this speech. When he announced his candidacy last winter, he stood on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, drawing a clear lineage between himself and Abraham Lincoln. In his closing argument, Obama ratchets that connection up much, much higher:
"I know that hope has been the guiding force behind the most improbable changes this country has ever made," Obama says in the speech as prepared for delivery. "In the face of tyranny, it's what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire. In the face of slavery, it's what fueled the resistance of the slave and the abolitionist, and what allowed a President to chart a treacherous course to ensure that the nation would not continue half slave and half free. In the face of war and depression, it's what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. In the face of oppression, it's what led young men and women to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through the streets of Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause. That's the power of hope – to imagine, and then work for, what had seemed impossible before. That's the change we seek. And that's the change you can stand for in seven days."
The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the great depression, World War II and the civil rights movement. That's quite a lot for one campaign to hope for, or live up to.